Lesson 1

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 1:2 to the assembly of God which is at Corinth; those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both theirs and ours: 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Today's Lesson 

Paul begins this letter to the Corinthian church in the traditional fashion of letter writing during his day. Letters began by stating the author, the recipient and followed by a short prayer of blessing. But, while Paul uses the existing forms, he adapts them to his specifically Christian approach.


To begin with Paul identifies himself as a man called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God. Paul was well known to the Corinthian church. Paul had lived and preached among them for eighteen months. He established the church there, or rather, God established it through Paul. Paul is not just reminding them of his position; he is reasserting his authority, an authority given to him by God. It was through the will of God that Paul was brought to Corinth. It was through the will of God that Paul was made an apostle. And, it was through the will of God that the problems that existed in the Corinthian church were called to Paul's attention and that this led to the writing of this letter.


He writes to "the assembly of God which is at Corinth." It is not their church, or assembly, nor is it Paul's. It is God's. This particular assembly just happens to be at Corinth, but Paul wants them to know that they are part of something bigger. They are part of a greater assembly that extends beyond their city. They are a part of God's household and this assembly extends to include all those that God has called.


In fact, he reminds them that they are "called to be saints" just as he was called to be an apostle. They have been sanctified in Christ Jesus. Along with people from all over the world, they have been called to a new existence. They have been set apart by God. They have been made holy by the blood of Jesus. They have been raised to a newness of life through the resurrection of Christ. This calling, this sanctification, will affect the rest of their lives and has a direct bearing on what Paul will write in the rest of the letter.


They are called to be saints along with "all who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place." The Corinthians needed to learn that they were part of the larger whole. They needed to hear that what they did and what they allowed affected other people, other Christians.


To these saints Paul offers the grace and the peace of God. He offers the grace of "the Father" and of "the Lord." It is clear from the grammar that Paul prays that the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ both offer their peace and their grace to his readers. The prayer is addressed to both the Father and the Lord. As an apostle for Jesus Christ, as one commissioned by Christ to bring His gospel to them, Paul blesses them in the name of the Father and the Son.


One final note, Sosthenes acts in the role of an amanuensis, a secretary if you will, that takes the dictation of the letter from Paul and copies the manuscript into a usable form. There was a man named Sosthenes that was said to be the "ruler of the synagogue" in Corinth when Paul arrived. This ruler came to believe in the gospel through Paul's teaching. Whether these two men are the same or not is unknown. In any case, it is unlikely that the Sosthenes mentioned here played any greater role in the transmission of this letter other than taking the dictation and probably delivering the letter to the Corinthian church.


Paul prays for the grace and peace of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ to those at Corinth that were called to be saints. It is a prayer that is needed for all of us, as Paul later writes, "in every place, both theirs and ours." May the grace and peace that comes from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with us now and forever. Amen.


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